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UNITED STATES – Electronic Entry Procedures Begin End April

The United States is about to make a big move – the current system of paper entry records (I-94 cards) is being replaced by an electronic system. Note, however, that some confusion and delay is anticipated and that it is strongly recommended that all travellers print out their entry records from the new U.S. government website (details below) after entry to the U.S.

What Was the Old System?

Currently, and until 30 April, foreign national travellers to the U.S. complete a paper I-94 card either en route or at the port of entry to the U.S. This is then reviewed and stamped by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspectors, and a portion of the card is attached to the foreign national’s passport. The entry stamp confirms that the traveller has been lawfully admitted to the U.S., the immigration status or class of admission, and for how long they may legally remain in the U.S. Presently, when they depart the U.S., they return or surrender the paper I-94 card.

New Electronic System

Under the revised procedures, the CBP officers will create an electronic record of a foreign national traveller's arrival - date, class of admission, and expiration of stay.

This information will be accessible within 24 hours of admission via a new, dedicated website – the website is not yet activated.

CBP will provide written instructions to all travellers upon arrival on how to access the website to review the information and, if desired, to print a paper record. Individual admission information will be stored and accessible up until the time of the individual's departure, but not after.

For the time being, those entering the U.S. at land Ports-of-Entry will continue to receive paper I-94 cards. Upon departure, a foreign national traveller who was not issued a paper I-94 card and is leaving by air or sea will no longer need to surrender a paper I-94 card. However, individuals who presently possess a paper I-94 card will still need to return it when they depart the U.S.

Print a Paper Record

It is strongly advised that travellers to the U.S. access the CBP website to print a paper record of admission as soon as possible after arrival, and certainly before a subsequent departure.

Paper records will still be required for many employees as evidence of lawful admission when beginning or resuming employment (for Form I-9 completion), and for other activities such as applying for a driving licence and/or to request a Social Security Number.

Even for those non-immigrants planning a short visit - e.g., tourism - obtaining a paper record of admission via the CBP website will ensure that they have documentation of lawful admission should they later seek to extend their stay or seek a change of non-immigrant status.

Additionally, printing a paper record will allow a traveller to reconfirm the accuracy of the admission information in the CBP database (i.e., class and date of admission and expiration of status). If CBP records are incorrect, travellers may seek correction at a CBP Deferred Inspections office at a nearby airport; printing a paper record may be the only way to learn of such an error.

Anticipated Problems

CBP believes that transition to paperless admission process, for most individuals, will serve to reduce paperwork and streamline the entry process, thus resulting in significant savings in both manpower and materials.

Yet, as CBP phases in the new paperless system across the country over a period of four weeks, confusion likely will arise for airlines, inspectors and travellers alike. In another sign that the launch may not go smoothly, there have been reports that CBP training for its personnel on the new procedures has been uneven. Travellers may encounter entry delays at admission if inspectors are not fully briefed on the new procedures.

Action Items

  • Note the new, automated electronic entry record system, to be phased in from 30 April
  • Advise all your employees travelling to the U.S. to print out paper records of admission

This news alert was prepared using information provided by Maggio and Kattar

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this immigration alert has been abridged from laws, court decisions, and administrative rulings and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the applicability of this information, please contact Peregrine © 2017 Peregrine Immigration Management Ltd.